Palermo Heading Towards Royalty

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A Man Who Wields His Finger Like It Was a Gun

In the small island of Sicily, being ‘trigger-happy’ can mean many things though when Palermo chairman Maurizio Zamperini is involved, the phrase couldn’t be more apt. Since taking over the Rosanero in 2002, he has fired nine different managers; Francesco Guidolin fired four times in four years perfectly demonstrates impatience from Zamperini.

His outspoken ways have recently led him to claim that he is finally finished with football – a long 23 years in the sport with various clubs, he can look fondly back on. His dream is to make Palermo on an even playing field with some of the big teams, who he believes get the rub of the green with the refereeing decisions, which initially sparked this decision. In a press conference after the 3-1 defeat to Milan, he said,

“Tomorrow (Friday) morning I will resign. I am selling Palermo and I am leaving football definitively. I’ve had enough. I am tired of taking part in these episodes.

“I have taken my decision. I want to distance myself as soon as possible from this football. Palermo is up for sale from right now. I thought things had changed, but it’s still the same filth.”

Then in a statement on the club’s official website, he added:

“I have given the task to find an advisor that can be in charge of the sale of the shares of Palermo.

“My decision is clear even though I feel pain to leave the beautiful Palermo fans with whom I am very close to.

“Certainly the new owner of Palermo will have to be at the level to guarantee the aims of a great club.

“This decision is down to the fact that I feel defeated by a world where the sporting values are more and more forgotten, and where the economic and media power of three or four clubs – who want to divide the Scudetto among themselves – reign.

“I am tired of fighting, especially considering my age. I hope to leave the club to young people that have the enthusiasm and the strength to fight in order to change for the better what I have not been able to achieve.”

Zamperini has gained a reputation of crying wolf however it seems his howls have finally been answered in the shape of a Saudi prince.

Sami bin Abdul Mohsen Al Hokair is the deputy CEO of Al Hokair Group, a leisure and tourism group who’ve gained millions building theme parks, hotels and restaurants in the Middle East. Al Hokair is believed to be one of the most richest men in the Middle East and his group are looking at extending their interests outside of leisure and tourism, which includes purchasing a football club, following in the footsteps of several other Middle Eastern multi-millionaires over the past few years.

The deal is set to be done before January, ahead of the mad extortionate sales, which would suit any prospective owners to lay their marker on the club with a few high priced signings.

This does raise some pertinent questions about Italian football. The economy in Italy is flagging hence the lack of acquisitions from Italian businessmen of football clubs like Roma, nonetheless is it the start of a  revolution, resembling the English game, where outside investors are looking to profit from what potentially is a goldmine if run correctly? Also, with the state of Italian football falling from the 80s and 90s, does a huge cash injection from an overseas investor snowball into others vying to see which other clubs they can profit from too, thereby attracting higher quality into the league?

Palermo, however, may finally have shut the revolving door which Zamperini couldn’t control. A lot of work Zamperini has done can be appreciated, especially the profits gained on player sales and the steady rise of the club since 2004, when they first made their way into Serie A. Currently lying fifth, four points off a Champions League play off spot, the team doesn’t need a massive overhaul as they have  talent like Javier Pastore, Josip Ilicic, Mauricio Pinilla and Fabrizio Miccoli to get into those Champions League positions however success under the  ruthless Saudi businessmen will be measured with a different stick.

Suhail Seedat

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